To My Writing Followers

self pub

This is an exceptional resource for self-publishing authors. The internet is overloaded with information about self-publishing. As a first time author, it’s difficult to know where to turn to figure out this once “secretive” business of publishing. Joel and Betty’s book, The Self Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide, is exactly what its title proclaims it to be. You will find hundreds of options to assist you from concept all the way to self-published book. The resources are listed as you would need them in the creation process, beginning with developing and editing your manuscript and concluding with promotion of your finished novel. Each resource includes a brief description of the types of manuscripts they have experience with or their area of expertise, thus making it easier to find what you are looking for as an author.

Unfulfilled Needs

I am Writing

Without conflict, there is no story. We’ve all heard it a million times. But what fuels the conflict? The unfulfilled need of your protagonist, of course. The need of your protagonist must be deep enough to get you through your entire story. It also has to be something the reader can relate too, otherwise even if it creates tons of conflicts and you can pump out 100,000 words, your reader won’t care and will set the book down.

How do you come up with a need that is relatable? Pick something that is basic to all people. Take a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, according to Maslow’s theory people have five levels of needs and if one level is not satisfied a person is not going to be able to move forward in their development.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs

Physiological needs: food, water, warmth, rest

Safety needs: security, safety

Belongingness and love needs: intimate relationships, friends

Esteem needs: prestige and feeling of accomplishment

Self-actualization needs: achieving one’s full potential including creative activities.

If your character doesn’t have food, water, warmth and rest, it will be difficult for him to focus on the next level, although they may have needs there as well.

Life is not as straight forward as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs would like us to believe. Most people are addressing needs from three or four of these levels at the same time and your characters should be the same.

The protagonist of your story may have physiological needs, belonging and love needs, and self-actualization needs. Having various levels of needs is going to supply you with lots of opportunities for conflict and growth in your character’s arc. Just as important, your reader will be able to identify with these needs and feel strongly about what happens to your protagonist and any other character you supply with a need (and you should your minor characters should have needs just like your major characters).

Identifying your characters needs will make creating a back-story and understanding your character easier for you as well. The more you know about your character the easier it is to keep their actions and responses to conflicts realistic and true to who they are as a person or whatever they happen to be.

Creative Head Space

I am Writing

Many writers are able to schedule time to write at the same time each day of the week. Having a set time prepares your mind to be creative and to get into the mood.

Other’s create a space in their home or office where the magic happens. Their brain kicks into creative mode when they sit down.

Still other’s listen to a particular type of music and warm their fingers around a mug of coffee or tea, to stir the muse to life.

Is all of this necessary to get into that creative head space? No, but routines such as these can be helpful setting the stage. All these routines tell our body and mind, “Ok, it is time to focus on this creative thing we do.”

Even with all these preparations and cues to set us up to be creative, at times we sit there staring at the blank page with a dismally empty mind. Then what? Should you get up and walk away or sit there waiting patiently for something to come to you? I walk away. If the words won’t come and the movie isn’t playing on the screen of my mind, I find something else to do for a while.

There are three things I do that are helpful to me at times like this, first, I can go for a run. Running wakes me up and gets me to focus. My mind is free to wander and let go of any stressors that may be clogging the creative drain. The second thing that I find helpful is listening to podcasts on the writing craft. This spurs new ideas and new perspectives on old ideas. The third thing is similar to the second, I read books on the craft or blogs.

I never just sit there trying to come up with something because all I manage to do is become frustrated and produce total crap that will be deleted the next time I look over my work in progress. I always have more than one project going at a time, so if I’m just not in that creative zone needed to produce new scenes, then I turn to editing, researching or outlining.

 

Point of View

I am Writing

When you craft a scene in a character’s POV, every line in that scene has to feel as though it is being processed, chewed, and spit out by that character. Everything that happens in that scene is witnessed, experienced, felt, and reacted to by that character. And so, even the narrative must have “voice.”

CS Lakin

When I first read the above, I had to sit with it for a minute and process it. I loved the way it was written and the knowledge behind it is worth really considering.

I found this in an article about voice, but it is equally important when thinking about which POV to choose for a book and to make sure that you have not head hopped during one scene.

POV, point of view, is one of the most important decisions an author will make about a novel. First person, third person limited, and third person omniscient are the most frequently used POV’s. There are costs and benefits to each one of them.

First person, allows the reader to get to know your character and bond with them. It can make the story come to life in a real way. First person POV typically, has one POV character and would be confusing if you changed characters. First person, can be difficult to write because you know what is going on in everyone else’s head and sometimes it slips in. You have to catch those slips in editing and find a way to give the same information from the first person perspective.

Third person limited can be as intimate as first person if you stick with one or two character throughout the novel. Third person can be difficult because you run the risk of head hopping during a scene because you do write from other characters points of view. Third person limited POV is the most popular choice for authors.

Third person omniscient allows you to write from every character’s POV. The reader can see inside anyone’s head. It gives you the option of having as many POV characters as you would like. You write from a god like perspective. You can tell the reader what is going on in anyone’s head at any time. This can be confusing to readers unless each character has a distinct voice. True Omniscient POV is not used very often.

As hard as we try as writers, some lines or whole paragraphs slip into our scenes that are from the wrong POV. That’s why I love the quote above. It reminds us that every aspect of the story must be told from the one POV.

Doing so increases the bond between character and reader and reduces the possibility of confusion.

Choose Words that Characterize

word rain

Trying to convey how we feel with words can be difficult. You sit with the feeling and think about the words that attempt to express it. Nothing really does though. They come close, but something is always missing.

I’ve spent hours trying to find the right words, construct the right sentence, and make other’s feel the way I do with my words. But that’s backwards. You can’t make other’s feel what you feel. You have to call out the proper emotion from within them.

Isn’t that the same as making others feel how we feel? It’s the reverse actually. Instead of trying to make you feel how I feel, I want to bring out a particular feeling in YOU. This is all very confusing, you say.

If I am trying to get you to feel a certain way at a particular spot in my story, I automatically go to every aspect of the story to get you there. I use the setting, the weather, the body language of my characters, and dialogue. The words I choose to describe all of this call out an emotion in you.

If I want you to feel joy, I’m going to find a detail of joy in the weather that I can bring forward. I’m going to have my character notice bright and beautiful things in the setting and not the cockroach lurking in the corner. The words I use to describe the actions in the scene are going to be bouncy and colorful.

By doing this, I don’t have to tell you that my character is happy or joyful. You already know because it is in everything that is going on around the character. Even if the setting is ugly and dark, if your character notices the one beautiful element it tells the reader how your character is feeling and that your character is more of the optimistic type than pessimistic.

Get your thesaurus and dictionary out and have them ready while you are editing your first draft. If they are easily accessible, you are more likely to use them. As you build your story, chose words that do more than define and describe, choose words that characterize and color.

 

Why Write?

I am Writing

Ever writer has a different reason for writing, and each work in progress (WIP) has its own unique spin on the ultimate reason for writing. If you don’t know why you write, you will lose your motivation and your WIP will languish in a closet and never be finished. One reason is not better than another, what matters is that it’s big enough. It must be unwavering in its determination and passion.

There are a million reasons to write. It’s fun and interesting, and you’re always learning. You get to be in control of what happens and write the story you have always wanted to read. It’s an provides a legitimate reason to travel to exotic places. It pays the bills. It brings notoriety and possibly fame. You want to entertain others or provide them with experiences they may never be able to enjoy otherwise. It may be a combination of all of a few of these or something entirely different.

Each individual WIP takes your ultimate driving motivation to write and slices it like a piece of pie. The more you write the close you get to having served the whole pie.

Whatever it is, staying focused on the one piece while you are creating your WIP is essential to writing tight prose through the first draft and killing your darlings during editing. It acts as your guide, when your characters want to go off on a tangent or when you think that providing a bunch of backstory is “absolutely necessary” despite not being able to work it in and maintain forward momentum in the plotline.

I write ultimately for hope, to never give up no matter how tough things get. It’s the theme of my life you could say because it bleeds out, not just in my writing, but in every aspect of my life: my day job, parenting, hobbies, and friendships. That’s how I know it’s the correct theme and motivation for my writing. It couldn’t be anything else. It’s big enough.

Each of my novels has an overall theme of hope and then I slice that into a specific challenge for the protagonist to address such as trust, which creates their character arc along with minor characters arcs or personalities to flesh out the slice and force the protagonist to change either negatively or positively. The antagonist can have the opposing arc to the protagonist or just be the central force pushing against the protagonist. The plot drives it all forward creating internal and external conflict.

To find your why, look over your life and see if there is an overriding theme that drives you in your other roles it may be just the thing your WIP needs to get to the last page.

The perfect couple

perfect couple

Running and Writing sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g,

First comes love, then comes marriage,

Then comes baby in the baby carriage.

I may be a little biased, but running and writing are the perfect couple. They rarely fight or argue. The weakness of one is the strength of the other.

Writing requires a lot of butt in chair time, fingers whirling over keys, and brain checking off plot points and character arcs. Butt in chair, adds up to a lot of butt. That’s where running comes in, to work off the butt. Running does a lot more for writing than just working off all the crap you shove in your face while you agonize over what’s happening in your character’s lives.

Running increases creativity and problem solving through clearing stress and flooding your brain with oxygen. Writers block? Lace up and head out the door for five miles. Let go of the writing and let your mind wander. You could see something that will get your muse back to work or something may just pop into your head. Running also helps with sleeping, as writers sleep is the time when we do our best work.

Running can take you physically and emotionally to places you have never experienced. It teaches you to dig deep, stick to a schedule, and build slowly, which are important lessons for writers who sometimes think they can only write when they feel like it. As a runner, there are days when you would rather stay in bed than go out in the cold and run 800-meter repeats (which suck if you’ve never had the experience).

Writers have the tendency to hole up and not socialize much and running with a group or training for a race can get you out the door and around people who don’t inhabit your head. Runners come from diverse backgrounds and their stories of running adventures may fuel your next novel.

All right, so how does writing help running? Runners by their nature like to push themselves to their limits. This is a good thing, when that’s what is on the training schedule, but rest is equally important. Sitting in front of a computer or pad of paper is excellent rest.

 

Connection is Essential

digital media

We all seek a connection with others. Without it we stagnate and go through life performing the same actions without meaning. Connection is what makes everything we do worth doing. The digital age is here and it has changed the way people connect to one another.

In some ways, this has been positive, and in some ways, this change has been negative. We start relationships, friendships and intimate relationships, through the internet more often than we do by face-to-face contact. My 13-year-old son has more on line friends than he does friends at school.

The negative side of this, is that he lacks some of the basic skills of interacting with people in person. You can tell he is uncomfortable in a group of people. He has a hard time talking on the telephone because he is use to bite size pieces of information through texting. Despite my efforts to get him to interact with others more frequently, the problem persists because he is resistant to stepping outside of his comfort zone.

The positive side of this digital communication is that we can reach just about anyone around the world. Anyone can find and build connections with their tribe of people because they are just a click away. If you live in a small town and no one there quiet understands you, you can still find others who do. Digital communication makes it easier for people to be authentic because the fear of rejection is buffered by your computer screen.

Nothing can replace real face-to-face interaction and connection with others. The more you can be out there connecting with people on an individual level the easier it is to market and sell your books. But you also have to be able to engage with others on a more personal level using digital media as well because that is where your audience is.

If you create an individual connection with your readers, promotion and marketing become easier. You don’t have to be as aggressive. Your readers want to know more about you because of the connection. They care about what you have to say because you care about them.

 

Interior Book Design

book design

Have you ever really looked at a book? I don’t mean just the cover of it, but the interior of it too. As a reader, much of the design of a book goes unnoticed, which is what you want as a book designer. You want the reader to focus on the story and not on the format and design of the book.

As I’ve delved into the indie author world, I’ve discovered that interior book design is a HUGE deal for the reason I mentioned above. You don’t want your reader to notice it on a conscious level. So what goes into the interior design of a book?

Font choice is only the beginning. Most people go with Times Roman, which is not a bad choice it is easy to read. Whatever you choose you have to stare at it for a long time, is it easy on the eyes for hours? Because I’d like readers to sit with my book for as long as possible and set it down for reasons other than the font giving them a head ache.

Other things you have to consider is where do blank pages go in a book? Which side of the book has the even page numbers? Is it okay to start a chapter on the left side or does it always have to be on the right? Should I use a header or footer with the book title or author name? how big should the margins be? How far down the page should the chapter begin? Are all of these things the same across genres?

The best way to learn about these things is to spend time in a bookstore and man handle some books. Look at different genres and multiple examples within each genre. There is also a lot of information online about book design and many companies are popping up to help indie authors with formatting.

http://www.bookdesignetemplates.com is one such site. You can purchase different templates to use depending on your personal preferences, genre, and licensing needs. Learning about all of this and how to do it myself has been an eye opening experience and a lot of fun, but it can be very overwhelming as well. If you find yourself getting too overwhelmed with all of it, it may be worth hiring someone to help you with it all.

The last piece you have consider when designing the interior of your book is how do these things change for an ebook verses a print book? Of course you can choose to only publish in one or the other, but as a reader there are books I’m all right with having on my kindle and there are others that I want in hard copy. As an indieauthor limiting yourself to one box is the worst thing you can do for any facet of the whole writing gig.

Thebookdesigner.com is an excellent resource for all things involved in designing books.

Count down to Halloween

demonica

The costumes began appearing in stores a few weeks ago. The Spirit store and Halloween Store have opened their doors. The haunted houses have begun operation for the greatest of holidays, Halloween. I love Halloween. I get so excited the closer it gets. I’m not sure what I should be this year, last year I was the wicked witch of the west. I’ve also been a dark fairy and vampires many times. I have to be something evil, never something nice. I was always so bummed when my boys would choose to be something like a ninja rather than a devil, death, or a zombie.

Neither one of my boys are going trick or treating this year, but that won’t stop me from dressing up and having an excellent time. It just opens doors to new possibilities of celebrating, since I don’t have to wander the neighborhood street until 10:30 collecting candy from all of my neighbors.

My boxes of Halloween decorations outnumber the boxes for every other holiday. My boys have banned some decorations from the house requiring me to take them to my office. Like the one in the picture, that is Demonica. As Christmas approaches, I put an elf hat on her and a card asking for sub-for santa donations on her behalf.

Wandering the isles of the Halloween and Spirit stores is almost as fun as bookstores. Each year I add one new decoration to my collection, I put a lot of thought into which one I add because it has to fit within the theme of the rest of the decorations. Vampires, witches, and demons are my favorite creatures of the night.

Halloween is the day you can become anything you want, whether it is real or not as a writer I am able to do this every day. I’m free to chase any dream or idea until its end.

My personality definitely leans toward the darker side of things. You can find it in all of my writing, there are few happy endings and when there is, it has come at a high cost. I’ve honestly tried to write happy stories, but it’s just not in me. They all take a horribly dark turn as I giggle and type away at the key board. Thankfully, there are readers in the world who are just as dark as I am.

There is an audience out there no matter what type of writing you do, never be afraid of who you are and where your writing takes you, as long as you are authentic someone will enjoy your books. Even if you had to sell your soul and sacrifice a goat to make sure they find your book.

 

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